tv The Communicators CSPAN August 13, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
>> well, this week on "the communicators" a look at cyber attacks. a new book out, and it is called, we are anonymous. inside the hacker world and the global cyber insurgency. it is authored by party olson, london bureau chief reforms magazine, and she joins us from london. if we could start, what is anonymous? >> well, actually, a very difficult question to answer. a lot of people see it as a group or an organization. is not quite that. anything is more of an internet phenomenon or a movement. many different people collaborating together online to protest against all sorts of different reasons and all sorts of to also to arrest people sometimes for fun. it comes from a culture of damage boards and discussion boards on line.
some people see it as the start of a new way of protecting online. >> added to begin? >> so, anonymous immersed from something that is called image boards. these are discussion boards on a website. one in particular called it 4chan. in 2004, 2004-5, this website became very popular. reader of that website in forestall of its users to be anonymous when they posted comments. now, all of these it's not like this at first, what they realized over time was that when they were stripped of the bill and identity and age and gender and all sorts of identifying features him a created is almost more mysterious powerful collective identity that they could be a part of. the over the years the use that not only for discussion, but to work together as a kind of collective force often just in the fall of pranks. over the years that took a much more serious direction,
particularly after they started attacking the church of scientology in 2008. >> first of all, who are they, parmy olson? >> they can be anyone, anyone can be anonymous. a man, woman, employe, unemployed, young, old. by and large, though, that may or core constituents of anonymous tend to be young men or young people. there is a misconception that it is a big group of hackers. that really isn't the case. for the most part they are young people who have grown up with the internet to understand the internet really well, how to circumvent it, the highways and byways, and to understand the subculture of the internet very well. >> parmy olson, you talked about the fact that they have protests or are protesting. what other protesting? >> there are all sorts of different things that they protest. a time during which i wrote the book between late 2010 and the summer of 200011, even in that
short space of time there were many different events that anonymou became a part of and were supporting. there was supporting of pirated bay because this is a piracy site. representative -- supporting wikileaks. supporting the pro-democracy demonstrators in the middle east. oftentimes, the most dramatic operation is done by people in anonymous are attacks against people who are defending -- sorry, who are trying to attack anonymous itself. self-defense. an item security contractor into the purity dozen 11 given in to beat the financial times were the ceos said that he had identified members of anonymous, a group went after this gentleman with a vengeance this and attacked his servers and stole thousands of his e-mails and published an online. it was really a devastating attack and his reputation and career.
again, very dramatic when it comes to self preservation. >> so, parmy olson, does anonymous still exist today? are they still anonymous, or have they been identified? >> certainly some supporters, very key organizers with an anonymous seven identified because they have been arrested. the only other time that someone will be identified as if they have been what they call box by someone else or rival hacker. it is certainly anonymous. it is one of those things that a new phenomenon in the sense that there are no leaders, no structure, no initiation rites or anything like that. very much an illustration of a new type of we the people are collaborating in this digitally open age. so it is very nebulous. so people can be in it for two years to mature years, some people for a day. so maybe some of the people who were part of a particular generation of anonymous at the time that i was writing my book are still around, many of them have left.
still many more have joined. people are coming and going all the time. >> parmy olson is the author of k-9, also the london bureau chief for forbes. parmy olson, who is sabu? >> one of the key people that i interviewed for the book, and he was also pretty much the defacto leader of the splinter group of anonymous called lulzsec which was an acting group. there were organizers to start with, and the kind of found each other in some of the private channels used by hackers and press release riders in late 2010 and early 2011. they formed friendships and created this splinter group called lulzsec. sabu became friends with another key interviewee in the book called topiary. not so much a hacker as he was an entertainer. and a great communicator and a great writer. someone who was very good networking. when the two of these guys work
together, sabu was quite a skilled actor. they decided that they wanted to a comma after there had been a 2-month lull in activity, they wanted to do something to be inspired and creates some kind of projects that they could get their closest collaborators to work together on. the two of them plus another four or five others have worked together on attacking h-p gary federal vip security contractor which i mentioned earlier. they thought that was such a successful attack that they could do it all over again and take it one step further and better and create something anonymous had never seen before. >> and what was that next attack? >> there were not quite sure what they were going to do when they started working together. they thought maybe they would create a chat network, a more stable now at -- jet network. that ended up not really be needed. ascetic, let's actually start lr vulnerabilities on high profile
web sites and seeing if we can exploit them. then, if we can, less fuel the data and publicize it under this -- under a new name. we won't be anonymous because an anonymous there is this kind of general ethos not to attack the media because the media is the message. let's go after whoever we want. and so they started finding vulnerability is and stocks, pbs, and an affiliate of the fbi called and fellow guard. they would exploit those vulnerabilities and eventually, one by one, not them under this new name lulzsec. a derivation of laugh out loud. it essentially means having fun at someone else's expense. there were doing these things for fun. sometimes they would attach a costa them as well. the impression the public was getting and the media was getting was all these attacks had been planned by some in the other things that have been done by anonymous. not really planned.
it was these guys being opportunistic, finding or exploiting other people's carelessness in terms of protecting their on-line data, exploiting that and attaching a costa it afterward. >> so was there a profit motive? was their money involved in these early attacks? >> when i first did writing about anonymous that was one of my first thoughts. there has to be some kind of darker elements here read these hackers will use these communities and networks and tools to -- for financial gain to steal credit card numbers or wherever else. in all the reporting i did on anonymous, that hardly ever came up. money really wasn't a motive for most of these guys. community, a sense of purpose, sometimes the sociopolitical point that they want to make for an agenda that they have. and very rarely do these kind of elements come into play. of course they were accepting donations at one point. lulzsec had a bitcoin account which is a typo crypto currency,
but that was one of those rare moments are instances where finances work a part of what they were trying to do. >> now, you said earlier that they worked together. how did they work together? >> they don't meet in person. that's for sure. occasionally if they're is a very strong feeling of trust between two of the supporters are members they would talk to each other on the phone. topiary and sabu talks to each other on the phone from time to time to check on each other. but for the most part they were collaborating on what is known as internet relay chat which is the type of real-time chat network. you can choose a network and then create chat rooms within that network. very quickly and with a few clicks and if you keyboard strokes you can create a secret chat room or a public chat room. if you understand the nuances of how i arce works and then you can have a very kind of dynamic the leverage of
environment to discuss things and this is how these guys worked. >> so could other people join the chat room? was a heck about several? >> it was private for the most part. i mean, within the agriculture and communities aligned with anonymous there is often a lot of e-trauma between supporters. people will try and attack each other, find out that a person's birth confirmation. go under a false nickname and try and make their way through social engineering tactics into a private chat room. these elements of subterfuge stow reaffirmation. so nothing is ever truly private basically. dated have various levels of private chat rooms that they used to discuss each other's. up to point out, there is a huge degree of paranoia that exists, particularly within the organizers to work with anonymous, the constant fear that they will get found out by the police or they will get added. usually the bigger fear is being
added by another actor. they can do that pretty well. >> another character in your book. kayla. >> yes. and character is probably a good way to describe that. although kayla was an interview the in the sense that i was interviewing this person by e-mail and an internet relay chat, this person was presenting themselves as a 16 year-old girl it was completely going with that story in having a very elaborate back story attached to that persona. when i asked them about their lives and their back story detected but growing up in the countryside with a single parent father, having no friends in the real world, finding friends online, teaching yourself to hack, having guys to work kind of slightly perverted in terms of the way that there were dealing with on line. all of these different details about her life and, you know,
never denying the fact that that was the true person that she was kind of sticking with that story. and, you know, although it seems very implausible i went along with the interviews and just teased out as much information as i could about the real person behind that persona. if anything, it was a great illustration of the ability for manipulation of perception of the internet. i think that is illustrated even in the broader sense what anonymous was doing, creating this illusion that it was this malevolent document organization often it was lots of small groups of people working together, wrapping themselves in that collective identity and amplifying their message on that platform. >> you right in "we are anonymous," says 2008 anonymous has destroyed servers, stolen e-mails and taken websites offline . in the collective act of social engineering its greatest feat was in getting people to believe
in the power of its size. >> yes. >> what is that jack. >> well, this kind of speaks to where anonymous began, which was the image boards. so when the original, interest on these discussion boards were stopped from using nicknames and they had to be anonymous there were two different -- they started to be as the civil war between the people who wanted to use big gains in those who wanted to be anonymous. the guise of the nicknames recall the anonymous guys, there would jokingly referred to it as a man called anonymous in the hive mind. this joke turned into something that was real, the sense that through collective action, their collective discussion they could create something more powerful than any individual. unit, we talk a lot these days about crowd surfing. that is a very big component of our anonymous works as well. collect the gathering ideas
together, what is best. sometimes the most charismatic individuals, the real tourist, if you could call it a democracy, the doors with in that crowd are the ones who tend to up lead the way. never appointed, never really voted in, but if there is popularity the sublease arouse that person then they can get things done and a crowd can move forward. >> in london joining us on "the communicators," talking about her new book "we are anonymous." we began our discussion talking about 4chan. what is it in any wonder there? >> you probably would not want to go to that site. it is a free-for-all. and i shouldn't say you probably would not want to go. to get out by all means, but user morning, be aware of what you see. all sorts of contents. a lot of boredom of pictures with gore, and a lot of
opportunities for people to bring other people. to say there is someone who is a regular user. releases like. puddling to it and say let's go after this person. and if they manage to kind of promote that in the right weight then other people on the thread will be very happy to join in and help to crack that person's facebook account. yes, it is kind of an amoral kind of free-for-all, but at the same time it is a real source of under creativity. a lot of these come from 4chan. such an element of freedom and no limits to what you can say or
do that often they, with very funny and hilarious names and jokes and tricks and pranks. >> so, the on-line persona that are developed verses the personal personas that are real, what is the difference between these two? >> you know, i think that is something that the internet has provided for a long time. you know, when you're on facebook? projected different kind of personality to you are. some people don't draw distinction at all. the irs the networks, you can have a nickname. with that nickname you can create a back story. you can be a different gender, a different age, what anonymous does is take that to the next level. not only can you live out and alter ego or a different kind of personality or gender. you can have a purpose.
you can have a moral high ground as well. all these different personalities can come together and can have a kind of purpose and find fulfillment for the people, the real people behind those personas. >> do sabu, kayla, and topiary still exist online? >> no, they don't. the people behind those names have been arrested. the man who was arrested for being kayla has pled not guilty to all charges against him whereas j. davis has pledged to two out of the four counts. sabu, who was ousted as being a late 20's man from new york, lower east side named hector month cigar has pled guilty to the charges against him and has yet to be sentenced. >> how were they arrested, who was arrested first? talk about that. >> the first person to be arrested was sabu. he was the charismatic figure,
the one that people looked up to, almost the older brother within lulzsec. could be aggressive and was known to tell people off from time to time. very hot headed sometimes. if you got on the wrong side of him. he was the first to be arrested on june 6, 2011. really right at the pivot of the lulzsec packing spree. he went offline for 24, 36 hours, and everybody on the chat room, the private tax from she had been frequenting were worried. topiary was worried. i remember him telling me that he was worried about whether sabu had been arrested or not. and then sabu came back on line and said that everything was fine and, in fact, his grandmother had died and he was born to be offline for a few more days to deal with funeral arrangements and what not. the truth was that the fbi had come to is house and had threatened to -- that he would be incarcerated for two years because they had evidence to prove that he had been involved in credit-card fraud. and to avoid that he had two
young girls that he was guardian over, he agreed to cooperate with the fbi. for the coming weeks even as lulzsec continue to announce tax , collaborate with other actors, sabu was, in fact, informing on the members of his team and cooperate with the fbi. >> and that was in new york city. >> in the uk. so based in the balance. a very remote community of ireland, just as most of land between scotland and norway. he led by himself in a small wooden house. just near the main town. >> and take davis was topiary? >> that's right. a few weeks later in mid july, actually after lulzsec ended, jake had a knock on his door and it was the police in plant closed. they have fallen upon a private jet from london.
they wanted to see everything that was on his laptop. he had to step away from the computer. they asked him for the password to get access to some of the hard drives that are on his computer. he gave them that access. they immediately started questioning him and questioned him for the next four days. >> did he admits to being topiary at some point? >> he was very cooperative with the police. after they spoke to him, probably should not sit too much about that since the in the u.k. i have to be careful because he has a trout coming up next april and there is an issue of contempt of court here. however, the understanding is that he did cooperate with the police and they were able to get the password to his accounts, for instance, is twitter account. also manning the lulzsec twitter account, so that stopped tweeting. >> what about kayla? >> so, again, another situation where the police arrested a
young man named brian aykroyd -- ryan ackroyd. they came to his house and arrested him in his stump. former soldier, did time. in the u.k. army for five years. and really looks like a soldier. when you looked at me as this military crewcut and tattoos on his arms. and just about a month ago he was in court with jake davis. arrested in connection with lulzsec who is a 95 minor and cannot be named legally. >> end of pled not guilty. >> a mixture of guilty and not guilty pleas. jacob davis pledged to guilty to two out of four. ryan ackroyd pled not guilty to every single charge, all four
charges against him. on the 8-count indictment, one of the lulzsec supporters but guilty to six out of the eight charges. the fourth young man pled not guilty to all the charges. so there is definitely going to be a trial in april 2013, and i think we are going to see a lot more detail and getting court about the police believe is happening with lulzsec in the summer of 2011. it will be interesting to see what comes out of that. >> currently these gentlemen, and they were of cinnamon, correct, all men, correct? no women actually involved. >> that's right. yes. >> where are they? house arrest, in jail? what is their status? >> on bail at the moment except for ryan who broke his bail conditions. again, uk contempt of court, not allowed to discuss that. but his take davis and ryan ackroyd are wearing electronic tax which means that they have a
curfew, they are not allowed to be outside of the house after 10:00 p.m. or before 7:00 a.m. >> are they allowed on ninth? >> they are not. this is a big thing for them. not online. furred jake davis, he spent a lot of time on-line to a particularly from the age of about 39 were. you know, to spend so much of your life on line to the extent where he did not really have -- do much socializing in the offline world and then to suddenly have absolutely no access to the internet, you know, these guys, while they are awaiting trial, are looking for jobs that they can do to earn a little extra money, and it is actually for some of them difficult to find something where you don't have any internet access. this is one of the challenges. >> it is unclear to me. my understanding at this point is that he was arrested and he is waiting to be sentenced.
i think i heard somewhere that he would be sentenced before the end of this year, but i'm not clear on that. >> so, what can we draw -- first of all, does anonymous in any way still exist? does lulzsec still exist? >> it is funny you should say that because there were some attempts to revive lulzsec, although the main guys who were really organizing lulzsec, the guys who have established are definitely not on the internet and more. a few other guys from the community, from hacker circles tried to start something called lulzsec reborn a few months ago, but nothing really took off in the same way that lulzsec did. we have not seen another hacker groups come to prominence with the same kind of attention or be even as destructive as lulzsec was. there had been some other groups with names like cabin crew. they have done some damage and
gun and press attention, but, again, no where near the amount that lulzsec. >> was there a relationship between wikileaks and the occupy wall street movement an anonymous? >> with occupy wall street at think it was definitely a lot of support between the two sides. suddenly there was an overlap of ito's in terms of left-wing libertarianism. a lot of guys will align them guys. certainly the kind of processes that anonymous was using to propagate ideas and to spread the word about an event. there were a part of that as well. nothing really official. this relationship. one of the things i learned from reporting was -- sorry, an anonymous and then lulzsec was
the guys with lulzsec were invited into a chat room in late june with the kids talk to the representatives of wikileaks another claiming to be julian assange himself. video evidence was uploaded. deleted just moments later. and at that time wikileaks are this representative was asking lulzsec to collaborate on hacking into the servers of an icelandic organization and trying to find elements of corruption. this was really explosive stuff for lulzsec at the time. the guys were kind of shocked. the guys are actually reaching out to them. they ended up trying to find the vulnerabilities.
they could not find of vulnerability that they could actually exploited. it was a little too complicated, so that didn't really go any further. a collaboration did happen. there were a few discussions. >> how did you get in touch with these folks? >> with lulzsec? >> yes. >> so, again, i was very interested in anonymous when it first came to the four in december 2010. i have always been quite interested in as the community in the underground groups and how they work and the relationships within them. so i knew i wanted to find out more about anonymous. i just ask one well-known observer if he could put me in touch with the spokesman in the cake. he gave me an e-mail address that i wrote to. and that is e-mails went back and forth. it became known curious about this apparent culture that came from -- that anonymous came from and this world, but the person behind this e-mail address was saying that it allowed them to see the world differently.
and i just wanted to know more. that person ended up being topiary, and we transferred those discussions to skype where i could have a phone call individually wrote a profile on him for forbes magazine. i just decided i wanted to take it further after discussing the issue of little bit with my own editor and reached out to other people in the network and got topiary to introduce me to others. just so many interesting personal stories from the people that i was speaking to. i agree with to tell the whole story, at least through the eyes of a few people who had been part of it. and so i think had they knew what i was writing and not really news story or whenever they said was going to be published the next day, there were a little bit more open to talking to me and allowing me into some of the private chat rooms where they were discussing things. there were discussing a tax but separate chat rooms that they created just to talk to me. >> and we are out of time, but we have been talking with parmy olson